Today is the birthday of Christian Benjamin Feigenspan (August 15, 1844-April 10, 1899). He was born in Thuringia, Germany but moved his family to New Jersey and founded the C. Feigenspan Brewing Company of Newark in 1875, though at least one source says 1868. When he died in 1899, his son Christian William Feigenspan took over management of the brewery, which remained in business through prohibition, but was bought by Ballantine in 1943.
There’s surprisingly little biographical information about Christian Benjamin Feigenspan, but here’s some history of his brewery:
In 1875 the Christian Feigenspan Brewing Company was founded at 49 Charlton St., at the former Laible brewery where he had previously been a superintendent. He would also marry Rachel Laible.
In 1878, he reportedly built a brewery on Belmont Street, and as late as 1886 a facility at 54 Belmont would be listed as the “Feigenspan Bottling Establishment”.
In 1880, Christian Feiganspan took over the Charles Kolb lager beer brewery (founded 1866) on Freeman Street. (Altho’, an 1873 map of Newark shows the property owned by a “Lenz Geyer Company”. There was a “Geyer” who was another Newark brewer who owned an “Enterprise Brewery” on Orange St.)
An 1884 fire would, reportedly, burn the brewery to the ground for a loss of $300,000.
By 1909, the firm would be advertising that “…Feigenspan Breweries are the largest producers of Ale in the United States!” (click on barrel above for text of ad) in an apparent dig at their much larger next door neighbor, P. Ballantine & Sons. Ballantine’s Lager Beer sales having by then accounted for 3/4 of their total production.
Possibly because of WWI era restrictions on the allowable alcohol level of beer (set at a mere 2.75%), Feigenspan entered into Prohibition with 4,000 barrels of aging ale in its cellar. In 1927, the ale would make the news as they tried to sell it. One story in July had it going to Heinz in Pittsburgh to be made into malt vinegar, but follow up articles say that in early November the ale was simply dumped into the sewer “…and thence into the Passaic River”.
Sadly, it would not be the first beer dumped by Feigenspan, which had one of the first four licenses to brew “medicinal beer” at the start of Prohibition. “Medicinal beer” was soon outlawed by the “Anti-Beer” law, and the brewery had to dump 600 cases of “real beer” (4.5% alcohol) in March of 1922.